THIS FALL, Representative Buddy Carter will face his most formidable opponent in years: Wade Herring, a family man who values kindness and compromise.
A constituent of Carter’s who attended the same church, Herring was so upset by Carter’s vote to decertify the 2020 election results that he decided to run for his seat. He’s tired of Carter’s divisive rhetoric and failure to stand up for democracy, and he'll draw upon his legal experience and natural optimism to represent the people of the First District.
Herring’s top legislative concerns range from the most pressing issues of abortion access and voting rights to the long-term solution of clean energy investment.
We sat down with Herring last week to talk about his motivation to run, what he finds important, and why this campaign is different.
Let’s start off by talking about what made you decide to run. I know you’ve spoken about January 6 being an instigating factor.
Sure. So I’m a lawyer, I was a history major in college, I’ve always been interested in politics, but never saw myself as running. I was busy raising my family and busy with my law practice, and I was also a very busy community volunteer—active in my church, active in my profession, a volunteer for Georgia Legal Services and Georgia Appleseed, I’ve helped locally and then I was also on the state board. The purpose of Georgia Legal Services is to provide access to justice for low-income Georgians and also opportunities out of poverty. So those were the kinds of things that I was interested in.
As a lawyer, though, I very much believe in the rule of law—you make decisions based on fact in law. I’m a great respecter of our institutions—the court system, our federal system of government, checks and balances.
And then came January 6, and I never thought any of us would ever see something like that in our nation: a violent insurrection in the Capitol on the day the electoral vote is supposed to be certified. I left work early, I was so upset. That evening my wife and I were watching television to see what’s going to happen to the future of our country. Then Congress reconvened and the camera goes over to the House side, and six representatives from the state of Georgia stood to oppose the election, overturn the election. Buddy Carter was one of those six standing on the front row.
I know him—Savannah’s the kind of town where you know who your representative is, and we went to the same church. I could not believe what I was seeing. It made me angry, it made me disappointed, it made me fearful for the future of the country. I decided I had to do something. I wrote an open letter to Buddy Carter later that January, asking him to apologize and to resign. Although I certainly know there are people who disagree with me, the response I got was overwhelmingly positive. From that, it turned into a conversation of, “Wade, will you run?” And obviously the answer was yes, because I wouldn’t be here otherwise.
That’s something that has always struck me about this race, is that you know Buddy Carter personally and rather than put your trust in him, you want to run against him. I don’t mean to put words in your mouth, but that’s how it appears.
Well, every representative takes an oath of office to protect and defend the Constitution—that is your principal job. On January 6, Mr. Carter failed to do his job. The fact that I know him, it wasn’t some abstract personage on television, it was somebody I know. Don’t get me wrong, I’ve always known he was conservative, I’ve always known his politics were different than mine, but I though that he had the backbone and the value system to do the right thing, to stand up to an effort to overthrow the government, and he didn’t do it.
Buddy Carter has held this seat for a long time, and his past opponents have not come close. Why is your candidacy different?
He’s a career politician—he’s been in politics 33 years, he’s been in the House of Representatives for eight years. He’s made it very clear that he does not represent the 765,000 people in this district, he represents himself. His donors are big pharmaceutical companies, oil companies, gun manufacturers—that’s who he’s representing and his own personal ambition. He wants to be chair of the House budget committee, and he’s basically said it’s so he can help cut Social Security and Medicare. He is out of step with the people of this district.
His position on abortion is not just wrong, it’s dangerous and cruel. He wants to criminalize abortion with no exceptions for rape, incest and life of the mother. He calls himself a surrogate for Trump.
So, why is this race different? I think people understand in a way they did not before that he’s not representing us, he’s representing himself and big pharmaceutical companies. His goal is his own personal and political ambition. This is a different kind of campaign, I’m a different kind of candidate. I’m not a career politician, I’ve been part of this business community and the larger community for a long time. People know that I’m a solid thinker and a problem solver, they know I’m a hard worker.
Part of the difference, quite frankly, is the ability to raise money. I’m not going to be able to out-raise Mr. Carter, but we’ve got enough money that I have a staff, I have people to help me, we’re going on TV, and so we’re communicating our message. We’re on the ground knocking on doors, we’re telephone banking, and I’m traveling throughout the district. So we’re doing all the things that a campaign is supposed to do in a way that has not been done in this district for a long time.
An advantage for you here is that recent polls show voters are most concerned with the preservation of democracy—above abortion, above inflation. This candidacy may come at a time where election integrity becomes more important than partisan issues.
And part of it, in our part of the world, we pride ourselves on hospitality and politeness. Mr. Carter has so lost his way that his messaging is mean, cruel, angry, divisive, and it stigmatizes people. I’m an optimist in that I think most people in the first district, let’s live and let live and let’s be nice to one another. Let’s show a little kindness to one another. His messaging is absolutely the opposite of that.
How much of a priority will it be for you to reach across the aisle?
A big part of what a legislator is supposed to do is solve problems. I’ve been a lawyer for over 35 years, and as much criticism as lawyers get, what lawyers do is advocate zealously for their clients, but they also tell their clients hard truths, and they also know how to compromise to help the client solve the client’s problem. I’ve been very blessed in my marriage, I’ve been married for 40 years, but if you’re married, you learn how to compromise. I think it’s a shame that compromise has become somehow a dirty word.
I’m well prepared to work across the aisle with whomever to solve the problems of this district and actually get things done. I had the great privilege of campaigning last week with Senator Warnock, and he’s cosponsored part of a bill with Ted Cruz; he cosponsored part of another bill with Marco Rubio. The point he was making is that you don’t compromise your values, but if you’re trying to get legislation passed that’s going to benefit the people of Georgia, then you work with other people to get that done.
Let’s talk about what you think are some of the top priorities for this area. Obviously inflation is a big issue and abortion is a big issue, but what are some big issues for you?
Because of the Dobbs decision undoing 50 years of constitutional protection for abortion rights, because of the cruelty and the unfairness that decision creates, a priority for me will be federal legislation that restores women’s reproductive rights. And again, as voters make a decision, Mr. Carter wants to criminalize abortion with no exceptions. That’s wrong, it’s dangerous and it’s cruel. Women are fearful about the status of the law right now; doctors are fearful about the status of the law right now. The state of Georgia has 159 counties, and 50% of those counties do not have an OBGYN. My daughter is a third-year resident in internal medicine, and her friends who are in OBGYN are looking at what state laws are as to where they want to go to practice medicine. It’s a national problem, but it’s also a state problem for us because it’s going to impact the health of women because we’re not going to be able to recruit OBGYNs and family practitioners.
Voting rights is a priority—it’s the very reason I’m running—and Georgia’s reaction to that with Senate Bill 202.
Healthcare, more broadly. The pandemic has taught us about underlying conditions in our part of the world: obesity, diabetes and hypertension. We can do a better job of preventing and managing those conditions on the front end of people’s lives so we all live healthier and more productive lives.
Education, and when I talk about education I’m especially concerned about education for young children. This is a priority for Senator Warnock as well, and I look forward to working with him so we can get the educational opportunities needed for our young children here in the state of Georgia.
And then finally, it’s an intersectional issue, but climate change and infrastructure improvement. Let’s admit the reality of climate change—we on the coast know that reality in ways that people further inland may not know yet. We just dodged a bullet with Hurricane Ian; there are going to be more storms, let’s get ready. And then let’s use that infrastructure bill to get the First District’s fair share to improve roads, to replace bridges, to improve drainage and create jobs.
I want to make sure your readers and the voters understand that Mr. Carter voted against the infrastructure bill, he voted against the CHIPS bill which will bring manufacturing back to the United States and cure supply chain problems, he voted against the Inflation Reduction Act, which in addition to what it dig with drug prices will mean a huge investment in clean energy. The investment in clean energy caused by the Inflation Reduction Act will jumpstart this economy in ways we really have not seen before, in a positive way. And that investment in clean energy is a longer-term fix, but it will address the issue of gas prices. We won’t be dependent upon what OPEC does because we’re not going to need it. Again, I understand that’s a longer-term fix, but there’s a sense of urgency about this that, quite frankly, Mr. Carter has never embraced and it’s time we acknowledge what’s right here in front of us and bring that sense of urgency to it.
You mentioned infrastructure, so I’m wondering if you had any thoughts on TSPLOST, which will be on Chatham County ballots.
Well, it’s a local issue of course—whenever we talk about infrastructure projects, it’s a combination of federal, state and local funding. As a member of the House of Representatives, I would be working on federal funding. We definitely need to fund improved infrastructure in our area—it’s been ignored. We’ve been talking about it for 30-plus years. Republicans and Democrats have kicked the can down the road and we’re now at a point where we can’t really wait any longer.
I have a couple of concerns about the TSPLOST referendum. One is, sales tax is a regressive tax that impacts lower-income people more severely. The way it’s sold locally is that tourists pay 38%, but the rest of us are paying the balance. And then the other concern I have is, do the voters know how the money is going to be spent? Are our local elected officials being transparent and accountable for how the money will be spent?
But bottom line, infrastructure is a priority for this district, and when I win this election, I will be working hard to get those federal infrastructure dollars to this district to get the work. In one county, I got told, they had two bridges that were just standing because of force of habit. And that’s an amusing joke, but families drive across those bridges. We’ve got to get busy and address those problems.
Is there anything else we haven’t talked about that you wanted to address?
We’ve touched on it, but more specifically, drug prices. The Inflation Reduction Act enabled Medicare for the first time to negotiate drug prices to leverage its economic power to negotiate drug prices. It capped out-of-pocket drug expenses for seniors at $2,000 a year, and it capped the price of insulin for seniors at $35 a month. There was an effort to expand that insulin cap to everybody that needs insulin, but int he compromises that were required for the Inflation Reduction Act, that didn’t pass. There’s more work to be done on making sure that everybody who needs insulin for their very life will never have to make a choice between groceries and their lifesaving medication.
Mr. Carter [appeared] on Fox Business; the question that was posed was about the student loan reduction, but that’s not how he answered the question. Where he went was, he wants to reverse what was done in the Inflation Reduction Act and basically increase drug prices, and he’s really interested in that because he’s a pharmacist. Again, there’s a huge difference in the two of us in terms of everyday issues that impact the life of people in this district, and certainly drug prices is one of them.
One other point I’d like to make: the previous administration talked about infrastructure, didn’t get it done. The previous administration talked about bringing manufacturing back to the United States, didn’t get it done. So we’ve got two pieces of legislation that address both of those vitally important issues, and Carter voted against both of them. Again, he’s put his personal and political self-interest ahead of the interest of the people of this district.